Former Russia military intelligence officer to testify before ICC on war crimes News
OSeveno, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Former Russia military intelligence officer to testify before ICC on war crimes

Former Russian military intelligence officer Igor Salikov arrived in the Netherlands this week to testify as a witness at the International Criminal Court (ICC) regarding Russian war crimes. Salikov is a former intelligence officer who took part in operations conducted by the Russian Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GRU) in Eastern Ukraine between 2014 and 2015. In 2017, he served as a senior instructor for the private military company Wagner in Syria. In 2022, he was one of the commanders in the private military company Redut during the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Before his arrival, Salikov penned a confession addressed to ICC prosecutor Karim Khan and ICC president Peter Hofmanski. He expected to be called in by the ICC as a witness for some time, but due to increased risks to his family and possible retaliation, he chose to independently travel to the Hague in the Netherlands and seek political asylum. However, Salikov did not to seek immunity from criminal prosecution by the ICC.

Salikov admitted to witnessing crimes against civilians and revealed that Russian soldiers were misled when they were sold a narrative of nationalist revival in Ukraine to justify the invasion. Salikov also admitted to witnessing child abductions in Ukraine. This aligns with the ICC’s ongoing investigations.

Since the conflict began, Ukrainian officials, the UN, and the ICC have reported violations of the Geneva Conventions. In March, the ICC issued an arrest warrant against Vladimir Putin and Russian children’s ombudsman Maria Lvova-Belova concerning the forced deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia.

The ICC initiated an investigation into alleged crimes committed in Ukraine in 2013. Although Ukraine is not a state party to the Rome Statute, an international treaty allowing ICC jurisdiction over international crimes like genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression, Ukraine accepted ICC jurisdiction over alleged crimes by Russia. Putin does not enjoy immunity as a head of state before the ICC, but currently, the ICC lacks direct evidence linking Putin to specific war crimes. The ICC has been most successful in its investigation into child abductions, leading to the issuance of an arrest warrant for Putin.

Salikov’s testimony, if accepted by ICC, is pivotal in this scenario because it comes from an insider who participated in these events. His evidence could provide crucial details about the chain of command, who issued what orders, filling the gaps in the ICC’s investigation into Putin.